The familiar scene: It’s 7:12 am The dawn light streaks in through your bedroom window, and you take a moment for a big stretch...before rolling over to grab your phone off the nightstand. Sure, you could bombard yourself with whatever your Instagram feed throws up, but there’s a better way – there are major perks to becoming a morning person. Research shows that they tend to be happier than night owls, as well as more proactive. (They’re able to leap whatever hurdles might pop up during the day with a little less ugh.) But if the idea of overhauling your entire routine to be more productive makes you cringe, fear not. Instead of doing the most, focus on these four things in the a.m. and you’ll be golden.
Arguably the easiest part of your new morning routine, since it requires you to stay still – in a smart way. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get between 7 and 9 hours a night. Staying up late to watch You on Netflix and getting up at 6 am isn’t exactly ideal. Instead, stay in bed for a bit longer and reap total-body benefits. Better sleep is associated with a long list of benefits: lower risk of depression, less inflammation, greater resilience against illnesses like the common cold. Plus, research shows that getting quality sleep can help regulate the hormones that are responsible for appetite, which means that skimping on shuteye can interfere with your ability to regulate your food intake.
Maybe you tried doing the meditation thing, got frustrated after three days, and couldn’t make it stick? Still, hear us out. Incorporating a meditation practice into your morning doesn’t need to involve sitting cross-legged on the floor for 30 minutes with candles lit and sage burning. You can also layer mindfulness onto an existing morning routine – try taking a few deep breaths and being completely focused while you prepare your tea or coffee, says Dr. Megan Jones Bell, chief science officer at meditation app Headspace.
“Start training your mind in as little time as one to three minutes and then build up to at least ten,” she says. “Starting small is a great way to help build the muscle for longer periods of mindfulness.”
Moving your body is important – this is not news. If you happen to find the time to do it in the morning, that’s even better. “The most significant benefit of getting your sweat done in the am is this: you get it done,” says Charlee Atkins, CSCS, founder of Le Sweat, who knows very well how things can pop up and get in the way later in the day. Plus: "Movement is the body’s natural caffeine,” she says. “It’ll put you in a better mood, and also help to increase focus, blood flow, and alertness.”
Again, be smart with your time. There’s no need to set your alarm for 4 a.m. so you can spend two full hours at the gym, one of which consists of messing around on your phone. You can get a fair amount done within a 20-minute period and see results.
Most people are prone to taking things for granted, according to licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Roxy Zarrabi, which can have a negative impact on our relationships and moods. Add that to the fact that our brains have what experts refer to as a “negativity bias,” which means that they’re hardwired to react more intensely to negative stimuli than positive stimuli, and well – we can all use a little bit of extra positivity.
Counteract bad vibes with some morning gratitude. “A regular practice can increase someone’s appreciation for what they have, which can contribute to a lot of benefits like an increase in well-being, improvement in mood, and strengthened relationships,” she says.
Take a tip from Marcus Antebi, founder of Juice Press, who doesn’t get out of bed until he can think of a few things he’s grateful for. “I’ve had days where I can’t find anything, I’ll get up, start something, and I can see my day is f**ked,” he says. “That’s when I get back in bed for 10 minutes. I’ll lay there until I’m grateful and positive, and it really works.”
More of a visual person? Get yourself a gratitude or one-line-a-day journal, which could be great to look back on over time.